Have you ever hit rock bottom?
My rock bottom = thanksgiving break 2010… coming home for the first time as a freshman at The Ohio State University [yep, fun fact — went to #tOSU for a year ; )]. To be honest, my memory is pretty foggy from this time… I don’t remember much, but I will do my best to articulate those thoughts, feelings, + memories from rock bottom.
As soon as I arrived home, my mom only had to take one look at me to know something was wrong. She was immediately worried. I had lost a LOT of weight since going to college, I was sleeping all the time — 16+ hours a day! ++ I was constantly crying. I wasn’t the driven, happy, bubbly, homecoming queen, cross country// track captain, 4.0 student that had graduated high school 6 months ago.
Immediately, my mom made an appointment with our family doc — mono relapse? Stomach ulcer? Leukemia? I knew that something was wrong — something shifted my first quarter of college, but I had no idea what. I felt like I had lost all sense of who I was.
As I sat in the doctor’s office, I was so scared. I started explaining to the doctor through tears what I had been feeling like for the past few months…
That college hadn’t really *clicked* for me. That I called my mom almost every week crying. That I had no appetite. That I didn’t want to be around people. That I just wanted to sleep. That I felt like everyone around me was *speeding up,* while I seemed to be slowing down. That my days consisted of trying my best to hold it together to get through a 50 minute class, + then I would go back to my room to cry ++ sleep. That my inner dialogue consisted of a never-ending mix of shame, worthlessness, + sadness. That I didn’t even want to live.
That’s when the Doctor said, “Sarah, I think you’re depressed.”
Me? No. My life was [+ is] perfect. I thought there had to be something else wrong, something that wasn’t just in my head.
The doctor explained that depression can run in your family [++ lucky me, it does] + that sometimes our brain chemicals are out of whack. He also explained that mental illness is treatable — between medicine + therapy, I would learn to live with this + I will live a normal life. He suggested that I move home, quit school [for now] so that I could get myself back together + return to school next fall.
Of course, I couldn’t quit school. What would people say? What would happen when people found out that I wasn’t perfect? That I had a mental illness? I told the doctor that putting freshman year on pause wasn’t an option, so he gave me some marching orders, “Take the medicine [every day!] + EAT. Take care of yourself + do what you need.”
During the car ride home, my mom tried to break the silence. “No one has to ever know”. This became my mantra.
I would take the medicine, force myself to eat, + *fake it till I made it.* I was determined to not let anyone know what was going on inside. I made my mom promise not to tell anyone [even my dad] + I decided that I would make it through the rest of my year at Ohio State before transferring schools to get a *fresh start.* As I’m sure you can imagine, that plan was not going to work… TBC ; ).
While I’ve hid my depression for a long time, I’m ready to be open about my mental illness journey… because the thing is, while I hit *rock bottom* Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, there have been many more bumps along the way… BUT, with the bumps have come strength + courage + newfound knowledge of myself.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that I cannot do this alone. ++ I know that there are women [maybe one of them is you] that share my story. We need to talk about this + end the stigma of mental illness. Depression isn’t just “in your head.”
++ Sarah Clem